The Tibetan Spaniel is no more a spaniel than a Greyhound is, and was likely was given the name designation because of its resemblance to the bred-down lapdog versions of hunting spaniels, such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. “Epagnuel,” a French word, referred to “comforter” dogs loved by the woman of royal courts in the Middle Ages.
The “Tibbie Scream,” however, may be less loved.
“Tibbies” are protective of their family, and if startled or uneasy, a Tibetan Spaniel will erupt with loud alarm barking, aka the Tibbie Scream. While it may not be welcome when one is drifting off to sleep, it absolutely is appreciated when one is drifting off to sleep and bad guys are trying to break into the house and mean harm. Buddhist monks made the most of this breed trait by incorporating Tibetan Spaniels into Tibetan monastic life. The little “monastery dogs” would sit on half walls, their keen eyesight able to see great distances making them excellent watchdogs. They functioned as lookouts, sounding an alarm bark when provoked to alert both monks and nearby Tibetan Mastiffs who provided “heft” behind the smaller dogs. A love of heights is an attribute that has never left the breed and manifests even today.
Interestingly, these same busy “sound machines” also had great patience: They were known to sit next to, or on the laps of Tibetan Lamas who routinely sat for hours in meditation. Not surprisingly, then, the AKC named it as one of nine calm breeds.
But it can still scream:
*In their homeland of Tibet, the breed is known as “Simkhyi,” which translates to “dog that lives in the bedroom,” “house dog” or “room dog.”